Matters India reporter
Kolkata — A national colloquium held in Kolkata entitled “Future of Christian Higher Education and Contemporary Transitions in India” expressed concern over alleged rise in “subtle attempts” to “saffronise” educational establishments in the country.
Moderator of the colloquium, Principal of Salesian College Dr George Thadathil said “The topic is pertinent in the contemporary educational scenario in India and subtle attempts are being made to saffronise educational establishments of the country.”
The colloquium was held at Don Bosco School Park Circus Kolkata, 16th November 2017, to launch 80th year clelbrations of Salesian College, Sonada, Darjeeling which has applied for autonomous status since three years.
In a tone of anguish Dr Thadathil said, “We have a right to be present and that very right is being challenged.”
Prof Thadathil was moderating the discussions on behalf of the Chancellor of Don Bosco University Guwahati Salesian Fr V.M. Thomas when he underscored the rights the Constitution guaranteed to the minorities.
Several speakers expressed their anguish at the sense of anxiety and apprehension that has crept into the country in the past three years.
“The situation is changing very fast…. In the last three years, we have come across certain changes which we could never think of before,” said former principal of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi Dr Valson Thampu who had earlier released his latest book “On A Stormy Course” in the same venue.
“We are passing through a stage when we need to be extremely circumspect. We can’t afford to stay static. We have to be cautious about the challenges. And we must understand our greatest challenge is to survive,” Thampu added.
Seven speakers participated in the colloquium and almost all of them expressed dissatisfaction with the way the minorities were not being recognized for their contribution to education and allowed to enjoy the rights granted to them in the Constitution.
Principal of Loreto College, Calcutta, Sister Christine Coutinho said rights guaranteed by the Constitution were being breached. “There has been breach of ideals enshrined in our Constitution. Such as the Articles 29
Article 29 protects minorities from discrimination in admission to any institution receiving aid from the state and grants minorities the right to conserve their own distinct language, script or culture. Article 30 gives minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions.
“Christians are known… for their social responsibilities, in education, health and social services, and in their mission to transform persons to better,” Sister Coutinho added.
In his concluding remarks Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta said “the identity of Christian education should be clear.”
“Like Mother Teresa [who] had no confusion about her mission: to work for the poorest of poor.”
Other participants at the colloquium included Vice-Chancellor of Christ University (Bengaluru) Carmelites of Mary Immaculate Father Dr Thomas C. Mathew and Vice-Chnacellor of St Joseph University Kohima, Nagaland Dr Joseph Dunston.
Among the speakers were Coordinator of Jesuit Higher Education and promoter of Community Colleges in India Jesuit Father Dr Xavier Alphonse as well as three heads of leading Christian Women’s Colleges. They were Secretary of Xavier Board and former Principal of Stella Maris College Chennai Dr Annamma Philip; Former Principal of Patna Women’s College, Dr Doris D’Souza, and Principal of Loreto College Calcutta Dr Christine Coutinho.
Salesian College, started in Shillong in 1933. A fire gutted the wooden building in 1936. Since then the college was re-located at Gorabari village on Siliguri-Darjeeling Hill Cart Road (National Highway 55) in 1938.
The college which opened to local youth in 2000, today has over 1,500 students studying in 15 departments of Arts, Commerce, Computer Science and Management in two campuses at Sonada and Siliguri. The college has a third campus in the Balasun area at Dhajea which is also a Research and Translation Centre.